DOHA –– French heavyweight judoka Teddy Riner collected a record-extending 11th world championship individual title in Doha, beating Russian Inal Tasoev in the men’s +100kg final.
It was an auspicious showing for the 34-year-old a little more than a year ahead of the Paris Olympic Games, after Riner suffered a shock defeat in the 2020 Tokyo quarter-finals while on the hunt for a third straight Olympic gold in the +100kg division.
Riner, who helped France to collect the inaugural mixed team event gold at the Tokyo Olympics, overcame 2021 European champion Tasoev with a waza ari in a repeat of their 2021 Doha Masters final.
It was the 2.03-metre titan’s first world gold in six years after he opted out of the 2018 and 2019 editions and withdrew from the 2022 championships with an ankle injury.
The 25-year-old thought he had won it in golden score as he celebrated after bringing down the Frenchman only to be left stunned when the referee did not give him a score.
It was a pulsating, physical battle that used all of Riner’s strength before clinching victory with a stunning throw for a waza-ari.
The victory will give Riner another huge boost as he prepares to reclaim the Olympic title at next year’s Games in Paris.
Tasoev had hoped to become the second individual neutral athlete to strike gold after Arman Adamian’s success in the men’s under-100kg category but had to settle for silver after coming up short against Riner.
Brazil’s Rafael Silva sealed a place on the podium after beating Tajikistan’s top seed Temur Rakhimov in the bronze-medal bout.
Uzbekistan’s Alisher Yusopov also bagged bronze after forcing Japan’s Kokoro Kageura to tap out following a brilliant counter attack.
France could have finished the day with golds but the towering Julia Tolofua was defeated by Japan’s Akira Sone in the women’s over-78kg final.
The Japanese reigning Olympic champion captured her second world title with a dogged display to take down the French giant.
Despite the height difference, Sone got the better of Tolofua by standing firm and outlasting her opponent in golden score.
Sone put in a series of attacks deep into golden score before Tolofua received a third shido to lose the 11-minute marathon.
Brazil finished the day with two medals as Beatriz Souza also secured bronze along with Silva after beating South Korea’s Kim Hay-un.
Israel also increased their medal count as Raz Hershko bagged the other bronze after seeing off China’s Xu Shiyan.